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Dupe finger at travel agency

Burdwan, Nov. 27: Over 20 Burdwan youths wanting to go abroad for jobs have alleged they were duped by a Calcutta-based travel agency and persuaded an employee to come to the district town before handing him over to police.

The youths, who wished to go to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to work as goldsmiths and construction labourers, said they had paid Rs 4.5 lakh to Prime Travels as fees for passport and visa processing but were given fake papers.

The owner of the agency, R. K. Avasti, who had demanded Rs 50,000 per person, has fled.

“We could raise Rs 4.5 lakh and when we went to the office in Calcutta on November 22, the owner gave us photocopies of papers that he said were our documents. We were told that we would be given the originals after we made the full payment. When we showed the papers to people in Burdwan, they said the documents were fake. We checked the numbers mentioned on the papers on the internet. They did not match on the embassy website,” said Sheikh Ibrahim, who intended to work as a construction labourer in Kuwait.

Another youth, Sheikh Mujibar, said they went to agency’s office in central Calcutta on Saturday and on not finding the owner there, persuaded an employee to come to Burdwan.

“We did not find Avasti. So, we urged another other employee, Mehtab Alam, to accompany us to Burdwan. We took him to a house and told him that the documents were fake. He eventually admitted that he and Avasti had duped many others and pleaded not to inform the police,” Mujibar said.

The youths handed over Mehtab to the police this afternoon.

An officer of Burdwan police station said Mehtab had been arrested. “Mehtab is a clerk in the travel agency and hails from Delhi. There are two more persons — R.K. Avasti and Vijay Sharma — of Lucknow who run the travel agency. This appears to be an inter-state racket,” the officer added.

Asked why they chose a Calcutta-based travel agency, Mujibur said: “We were looking for someone who could help us in getting passports and visas. We came across an advertisement of Prime Travels in a Bengali daily that claimed they could arrange travel documents for Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. We went to Calcutta and met R.K. Avasti. He said he would make all the arrangements for Rs 50,000 each.”